The starving artist, is it a state of mind?

Have you ever wondered why some people are successful and others aren’t? For artists this has been an old caption from years ago that all artists are starving artists and we all live in a bubble. I know it’s not true but many artists seem to enjoy going down that path. Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy food so starving doesn’t even come into the equation. I have written about this before so you probably wonder why I bring it up again.

In our local newspaper the other day was a story about a sports cartoonist that was stating he was having trouble making ends meet because the tabloids and papers were not commissioning sports cartoonists for article illustration. This artist was being interviewed by the paper and went on about the old days of cartooning, and how cartoons were better than photographs for sports and so on. All the same arguments most artists had when the internet came into play, or when digital painting and Photoshop became the norm. I felt for this guy, but in the back of my mind I was thinking he was a little late in seeing where illustration was going. Even though he mentioned that his son was making him a website to help get some work he had a wait and see attitude and was hoping that editors would come to their senses and see the value of the cartoons for publications. The reason this story got my attention was the fact he was a cartoonist, but the paper was a double page layout and the story on the opposite side really created a contrast.

On the other side of the page was a story about another artist. This artist was making a successful career out of painting food. His pictures were extremely detailed paintings of food such as a block of cheese, or a juicy steak. I believe he was selling these items to restaurants, galleries, and other places associated with food. He would paint the real food piece on a large canvas before it melted or deteriorated exactly how it was, he could have taken a photograph.

Both artists had work shown in the article and both were very good although different markets. Both artists focused on one type of subject matter so you have to wonder why one is failing and one is successful. The only difference was that the cartoonist was in his mid-fifties and the food painter in his thirties. This to me is a classic case of not keeping up with the times. As artists or businesses you always need to be looking out for new markets, change in industry and other factors affecting your craft. That cartoonist should have had a website ten years ago, maybe he could be developing books of his cartoons to sell, or, sold stock cartoons from his website. Maybe he should have moved away from sports and into another subject matter opening up different opportunities. Having a wait and see attitude is a classic way of going broke. It is hard enough succeeding in business never mind letting outside forces dictate your outcome. I hope artists wake up one day and get out of the way of their own success. Start looking at your art and see what types of products or other opportunities are available to you, your success depends on it.

About the Author

Bruce Outridge is author of the books How to Start an Artistic Business in 12 Easy Steps, Running By The Mile, and Driven to Drive. More information can be found on his website at www.outridge.ca